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Talent Development

SoWashCo Talent Development and Advanced Academics (TDAA) believes in equitable access in developing talents in students from all races, ethnicities, languages and socioeconomic circumstances. We recognize the biases inherent in gifted education and are committed to eliminating those biases and barriers for students.  We believe that all students of all ages have relative talent strengths, and schools should help them identify and develop their own special abilities.   

Our priorities within Talent Development and Advanced Academics include: 

  • Finding and developing the strengths and unique abilities of all students 
  • Providing opportunities for all children to develop critical thinking and advanced learning behaviors 
  • Honoring student experiential knowledge and giving students opportunities to play an active role in their own learning 
  • Increasing the complexity and depth of content to fit students’ learning needs 
  • Identifying gifted learners to provide them appropriately challenging instruction and programming which meets these students’ unique academic and social/emotional needs through services and extensions not offered in core academic programming. 
  • Supporting students in achieving academic success and believing they are capable of realizing their dreams. 


Eileen McEltrath 
Talent Development and Advanced Academics Coordinator

Tara Johnson 
Achievement and Integration and Teaching and Learning Support Specialist 

Identification Process

Elementary Classroom

SoWashCo Schools screens and identifies students annually for talent development and academic achievement services. We conduct universal screening to find students who are demonstrating outstanding abilities and are capable of higher performance.

  • All students in grade 2 and 3 are universally screened for services.
  • Students in grades 4-7 who were not previously identified but are demonstrating outstanding abilities may be screened for gifted services.
    • Achievement data, including the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) assessment, is reviewed annually and teacher input is given to determine students for further screening for gifted services. 
    • Students in grades 4-7 may also be referred by a parent or guardian. 


Frequently Asked Questions

Cluster Classrooms 

Cluster classrooms place a small cluster of students that have been identified for advanced academic services in the same classroom with a teacher who has received additional training in teaching high ability learners.

  • Cluster classrooms have the same number of students as other classrooms
  • Students that have been identified for advanced academic services can continue to attend their boundary school and be grouped in a cluster classroom
  • Cluster classrooms include students with a broad range of abilities
  • Cluster classrooms allow high ability students to learn with peers of all abilities while also being able to group together for more challenging lessons.

Research shows that clustering students of high ability increases the opportunity for instruction to be delivered at an appropriate pace and level of challenge. When grouped with students of like abilities, gifted students make more educational gains than when they are separated into different classes.

Talent Development and Advanced Academic Services in SoWashCo Schools are curriculum based. The curriculum for students in the cluster classroom is based on our district's core curriculum which is differentiated to meet the needs of all learners. Able learners may progress at an accelerated rate or at an in-depth level. A primary objective of the cluster classroom is to place greater emphasis on high level cognitive abilities and go more in-depth with the curriculum. All students benefit when teachers focus on expanding, extending, and enhancing classroom learning opportunities.

Levels of Service 

Talent Development and Advanced Academics services are provided at all SoWashCo elementary and middle schools through the Levels of Service approach (Treffinger, 1998).

These levels are based on the individual programming model developed by Dr. Donald Treffinger of the Center for Creative Learning, Inc. in Sarasota, Florida.

Levels of Service Programming is:

  • Flexible: Programming includes many different people, places, and kinds of activities. It does not follow one formula, single curriculum, or set program of activities or services.
  • Inclusive: Programming that is appropriate, challenging, and developmental can be available to anyone. Programming includes a broad range of talents and does not serve just one fixed group of students.
  • Responsive: Programming responds to the positive needs of students. It guides planning and decision making and leads to modifications of instruction. The mission of programming is to design and deliver instruction through which we can bring out the best in every student.
  • Proactive: Programming challenges the teacher, school, district, parents, and community to take constructive actions for talent development. Taking initiative for talent development becomes everyone's business.
  • Unifying: Programming provides a structure and terminology for communicating effectively about talent development within and among home, school, and community.

Teachers do not assume that students who have a great deal of potential in one area have a high level of potential in all areas. Sometimes, students with high potential for math may not have high reading ability and vice versa. High ability in one area does not equate with high ability in other areas. LoS provides a framework for planning, delivering, and managing a wide range of responses to the needs of students. (Selby & Young, 2001)

Edwin C Selby, & Grover C Young. (2003, October). The Levels of Service approach to talent development: Parallels with existing programs. Gifted Child Today, 26(4), 44-50,65.